Saturday, January 12, 2013

History Buffs, Can You Identify This Mystery Object?

Are you up to solving a mystery? My mother-in-law had a good time stumping visitors during Christmas with a little object sent to her by her sister who dabbles in antiques. Do you know what it is?

I confess, that I thought I should know, but couldn't figure it out. Afterwards, when my mom-in-law revealed the answer, it came as something of an "ah-ha!" moment.

So if you know what this is before I tell you, let me know. Other wise, guess away, and I will give the answer at the end.

What is it?

You can see as I hold it in my hand that it is fairly small, only about an inch and a quarter square, and it's made of solid glass.

You can also tell by the light in this picture, that there is a slightly purplish hue to the glass. The more light it is exposed to, the deeper the purple will become over time.
The history of some old glass turning purple is SO COOL.  Glass, being made of sand, contains iron, which, when exposed to ultra-violet light begins to turn green. Throughout history, varying substances were added to the glass-making process to stabilize the color. Up until about 1915 (which gives you an idea of the age of the item) manganese was the most common element used. BUT, manganese, when exposed to light, turns purple as it oxidizes.

This item is only slightly purple, which tells me it hasn't often been exposed to ultraviolet rays, even though it's probably about 100 years old.

You can see that there is a slight bowl in the glass, and it has a sort of non-skid, grid bottom.

It's kind of heavy for it's small size, and yet dainty.

So, do you know what it is?

For all you Downton Abbey fans, you might think of the glitz and glamor seen in the dining rooms of the gilded age. That's where you might find this object. But that's not to say other, simple versions didn't exist in the homes of common folk. That's because salt shakers hadn't yet been invented. Yep, that's right! This little dish is designed to sit near each person's dinner plate for the purpose of holding salt. It's called a Salt Cellar. Salt cellars began going out of style in the 1940s as they were gradually replaced by salt shakers. 

Salt cellars in one form or another, but not always called by that name, have been around since ancient times when using salt, or offering cakes of salt showed respect or status. You can read a lot more about it elsewhere, so I won't go on and on.

Do you have any mystery items or antiques lying around that you find particularly intriguing? Funny, how little things like that can really turn up the imagination!

Happy New Year Blessings~

Oh -- one more thing --The Green Veil, my first novel in the Empire in Pine series that released as an eBook in 2011, is being re-released this month in paperback. If you hear any yelling, it's just me shouting, Yahoo!


  1. I sometimes pick up old kitchen gadgets. I have a chain metal pot scrubber that's kind of cool.

  2. Naomi, Thanks for a fun little mystery (I'd read the term, but imagined--get this--a salt shaker :) ) and congratulations on a print version of The Green Veil. That's exciting!

  3. That is so cool! I first thought that little gadget was an inkwell...but a salt cellar! Wow! That's awesome. Congrats on the print version of your book, too! How exciting for you!

  4. Good job guessing, ladies! And THANKS for sharing my excitement about The Green Veil. It hasn't arrived yet, but I'm expecting it any day... :D

  5. Naomi,

    I actually got it right - probably only because I collect antique glass.

    Great post! Thanks for sharing

  6. wow, that's interesting, i wouldn't have guessed that!


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